Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Has Anyone Seen Mildred Rodgers Lately?

Away back in my post, “Perspective on the Rest of the World"  I spoke of this young lady living in  Drexel Hill, how she had these boys attacked her as a girl, hold her down and kick her teeth out. How at the age of 12 or 13 she and her girlfriends would run about the streets at night in just their Baby Doll PJs.  I should bring us up to date on her, although she is playing no role in my life narrative at this time.
Her teeth were fine. Fortunately, the attack happened before she had her permanent set and her new choppers grew in just fine. By the time she was 16 years old, despite struggling inwardly with a poor self-image of her looks, she was a model smiling away and looking fine.
She was to suffer a duet of tragedies in her senior year of high school did nothing to help her psyche.

The day after graduating from Upper Darby High School, which should be one of the happier days of our life,  her closest friend and fellow graduate, Lynne Martin, passed away. In the photo on the right, Lynne is the girl seated on the far right.
The young lady we have been discussing is seated on the far left. The girl in the middle is named Mary Lou.
Lynne died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 17.



As if the Fates wanted to pile cruelly upon her grief, her mother passed away three weeks after her graduation, perishing from lung cancer, even though she had never been a smoker and was a strong opponent to cigarettes. (The girl herself had begun smoking around age 12.) Her mother, Dorothy, was only 52. Dorothy is pictured on the left in 1922 and on the right  the year before she died. Both the girl’s parents were accomplished pianists and her mother was also the church organist.

The girl’s father did not adjust well to the death of his wife and his relationship with his daughter, which had never been great, grew further apart rather than closer.
Why are we concerned with this girl? We’ll find out soon enough.

Meanwhile, back in my own world in 1959.
Sonja had not dated in high school. I opened a new world to her, one in which she was often more aggressive sexually than I was. There was to be no thumb biting on our many Drive-In dates. She tended to be all over me. If there had been any biting it would have probably come from me in self-defense.
Then coziness was quite fine during the summer, but when she went to college in Philadelphia she discovered a lot of young men were eager to pay her attention. She began being something of a flirt, I think not fully understanding the wiles of young men, but being dazzled by the sudden attention. Compared to these big city boys I was the country mouse, less sophisticated and less exciting.This may be conjecture on my part in a effort to save face, but I do think it was really the case.
I don’t want to go so far as to say she turned into a “Mildred Rodgers”,  but there was a definite trace of that character within her and a hint of "Of Human Bondage" in our continuing relationship.  We continued with our dating, but she would talk about this boy or that she had met in class or rode with on the train. I doubt I hid my infatuation for Sonja well. I was completely obsessed with her. I would go into depressions when she went on and on about these Philly boys.
It was very painful when she began being too busy to go out on a date with me. Although she didn’t come right out and say she was going with someone else, she usually claimed school work or something. But the next time together I would hear stories about a wonderful Tom, Dick or Harry.
I was very much still infatuated with her and wanted to do whatever I could to hold on to her. Since she was so into music and I was a Broadway fan I wrote a musical play to try and impress her. I incorporated my old copyrighted song, “My Little White Lamb” and the one Stuart and I composed, “Ya-Ha-Whoey”. I even named the play,  Ya-Ha-Whoey! I wrote lyrics for nineteen songs and the book.


Lonely boy
Is in a whirl.
Going around
Mourning for a girl.
He runs everywhere,
No peace to be found,
Lonely boy
Is going around.

Of course I was the real lonely boy. The play revolved around two friends, based as was typical of me in those day on Richard Wilson (George Frederick Hilborn) and myself (Frank March) who run away from their small town (Wilmillar, PA) to the Jersey seacoast at Christmas time, set up a tent on the beach where George can compose his masterpiece and pine for the girl who jilted him.
I can’t imagine who these characters and plot emanated from.
The play was dedicated to Jeannette Siravo, but it was really written for Sonja.

Not that this endeavor made much difference. My play did not impress Sonja one iota it seemed. It wasn’t full of bounding Bolshoi Boys and Tchaikovsky-like trilling. We continued to occasionally date when she had no better offers, but she was slipping further away from me into that Philadelphia crowd. One night in a fit of dashed passion I ripped her photo in half, but then as the drooling love sick pup I was I taped it back together. There was always hope as long as my 3M Magic tape held up.
I was further haunted because the movie, "Sun Valley Serenade" was broadcast on TV that December. From that point I would go into spasms of self-pity and mooning at anything featuring Sonja Henie. It was not just the similarity of names, it was I felt Sonja Henie (pictured right) and Sonja Kebbe's faces resembled each other. 

My box of frustrations was full, stuffed with rejection slips as I continued to mail out manuscripts and and all the while searching fruitlessly for what my parents referred to as “real work”.
For any young'ums out there who may not know who Sonja Henie was, a brief introduction. Henie was an ice skater. She won the Ladies' Singles Champion three times in the Olympics, skating for Norway. She also was ten-time World Champion and six-time European Champion; in fact, held more Olympic and World titles that any other female figure skater.
When she finished skating, she became one of the highest paid box-office stars in film history. She died aboard a plane halfway between Paris and Oslo in 1969, succumbing to leukemia. She was only 57.

Ronald was once more back on his feet and as frustrated of the endless job search for employment as I. My own tour of the personnel offices went on and on. I was back to Philadelphia applying at some golf place, but didn’t get the position. A day later I applied for a job at Deloit Manufacturing in Downingtown with no positive result. On November 17th he and I kind of bottomed out. Ronald and I drove into Coatesville to try to get hired delivering phone books. We came on the wrong day. The day after the phonebook fiasco I received a promising call from a Philadelphia company with an IBM job.
On the morrow, when the sun came out on the morrow, I headed into the big bad city once more and searched out this latest dangling carrot. I had signed up with Snelling & Snelling, which was supposed to be this high powered employment agency. It wasn’t really that old a company in 1959, but old enough to have built a reputation as successful. It had been founded by a married couple, Lou and Gwen Snelling, thus Snelling & Snelling, in 1951. The company was started in Philadelphia at an office on Market Street. I am pretty sure this was the same office I went to and signed my name to some agreements. I wasn’t 21 yet, so the legality of these contracts is in question, but it’s a little late to go back to them now.
The place is still in business with a few changes. I don’t know how they run their operation today or what their terms for acting on the clients’ behalf, but here is what the deal was then. They would contact me with potential employers. I would go interview. I mean, I could refuse to go, but enough refusals and they wound't love me any more and drop me like a slimy stone. I did not have to take any job offered and there was no fee for this part of the effort. However, if by chance, some employer would offer me a job and I choose to say yes, I would owe a fee. This was the equivalent to my first two week’s wage. Actually, it wasn’t equivalent; this is what it was, my first two week’s pay.
Unfortunately, I found myself being sent to a number of prospects where I really wasn’t qualified. This proved to be the case once again when I arrived in Philadelphia and checked in at the company that called.
One catch in the contract I didn’t like was if I found a job on my own, not through them or anyone they sent me to, I was still expected to pay the two-week fee. The Philadelphia company I had gone to with very high hopes after the phone call discussion proved to be way out of my level. I had to turn it down, but as I was leaving the Personnel clerk (we called it personnel in those days, not Human resources), told me I should try this other Philadelphia Company.
Ronald, mean time, was getting very discouraged about his own poor job prospects. His hernias were fixed and he began talking of joining the armed forces again, specifically the Navy. He was itching to get away from Downingtown and he claimed he wanted to join the Navy because he wanted to see the world. His further suggestion was I should enlist with him.
I was beginning to consider it.

Sometime that year I had sent a manuscript to “Redbook”. “Reebok” had become a women’s leading publication by that time, part of the McCall Corporation line of magazines. The story I sent them was, “Terror and the Librarian”. I placed the story's location in the Downingtown Library I had loved so when in Junior High. I think my story still holds up today as an example of how terrorism affects lives. It tells about a Librarian nervously alone in the place she loves because a serial killer murdered several women in the county. She can no longer feel the comfort she always felt in the library. Every sound becomes a threat. Every cozy dark corner a place where a killer might hide.


I received a handwritten rejection letter from Robert Stein, editor of Redbook at the time. He wrote they were turning the story down because it wasn’t quite right for their audience. He then went on to praise my tale for its plotting and development of tension. That was very nice of him, very encouraging. Much better than the usual one or two formula kiss-offs from some lonely college English Major working her weekends at the slush desk.
Still, a rejection is a rejection, is it not? I filed it away with my other rejections. (Silly young neophyte scribbler that I was in those days I did actually keep all my rejections and in some sort of organized manner as well.) In no time at all I had forgotten this, probably burying in under the slew of fresh one-line rejections tht overwhelmed my mailbox.
But on September 16, 1959 (a date that will take on much more significance in my life later) I received a letter from Scott Meredith (pictured left) He was no relation. His name wasn’t even “Meredith”, nor truly “Scott” for that matter. His real name was Arthur Scott Feldman. His real name didn’t matter, everyone knew him as Scott Meredith, one of the preeminent and influential literary agents of his time. He was handling such clientele as Morris West, Evan Hunter, Gerald Green, Norman Mailer, Arthur C. Clarke, Henry Miller and Meyer Levin among others. This guy had his chops.
He began his letter by saying the editor of Redbook had given him my name and he was soliciting me to join a program his firm offered.
I turned his offer down.
You see, there was a $25 fee involved and I had vowed never to pay anyone to read my stuff. I was the creator, they should pay me.
Scott Meredith continued to solicit me for the next three years and I turned him down every time. I wonder if I threw away a great opportunity over a measly $25?

My father continued to embarrass me if he was home when friends came. He barely acknowledged my visitors, sometimes grunting at them. He would lounge on his favorite chair, often without a shirt. It tended to put people off. Worse yet, as I began dating girls and bringing them by, he would say, “Here. You want to see the real Larry,” and he’d hand them THE photo. THE Photo was one somebody, probably my mom, had snapped of me when I was a smidgen past one year old. It was snapped from behind as I trotted across the back shed toward the outside door in nothing, totally naked as the day I was born.

I found this a bit embarrassing.
I am only thankful it was taken as I walked away and not of me walking forward.

One morning I was heading out and he said something to me I didn’t like. I was tired of his jibes. I said something back and he gave me a little shove. He had never laid hands on me before and I don’t think he meant anything by this. He was just fooling about with me. It reminded me of some of those guys back in Downingtown, how they would come up and sort of push you a bit, challenging you to do anything. My dad pushed me again and I said, “Cut it out.”
“What’re you going to do about it?” he said.
The next thing I knew my dad and I am wrestling in the living room. Ray Ayres had showed me some tricks. One was a special grip where you link your hands together somewhat like a coupling on a train and then lock your thumbs into your fingers. I managed to get behind dad and put a bear hug on him. I locked my hands as Ray had taught me. Dad struggled, but he couldn’t break my grip and he was a very strong man. He finally had to give up. Dad never tried getting physical with me again after that.

Despite my diploma from Florence Utt’s nobody was offering me a job. There were a lot of ads for TAB Operators, but as I pointed out, I was caught in that old Limbo of new job searchers. One place I’d applied would say I didn’t have enough experience and the next place told me I had too much experience because I had gone to that school.
In November, Snelling & Snelling, the employment agency I had signed with, that was sending me out on many of these job interviews in a willy-nilly manner, sent me yet out on another “hot” lead. The job was in the Data Processing Department of a large corporation in Philadelphia called Atlantic Refining. I knew the name for they were long time sponsors of Phillies' games on radio and TV. Their headquarters was at 260 South Broad Street and that is where Snelling & Snelling sent me. I took an elevator to the second floor where Personnel was located. The security person in the lobby directed me to the elevator. I had no idea where the stairs were or I would have walked.

I introduced myself to the receptionist. She told me to have a seat. In a little while another lady led me to a small room off to the side. They subjected me to a half dozen tests, maybe more. There were aptitude tests and attitude tests. They tested my mental state and my dexterity. They did everything but take a urine sample. Half the tests they gave me would be illegal today.
After a few hours of testing they told me to wait. After another quarter hour still another lady took me to another small office and interviewed me. She noted I applied for a Level 6 job in their Data Processing area. I conceded this was so. She then explained company policy did not allow for hiring someone off the street at that level. All new hires normally began as Level 3 Mailboys, if they were male. There were no such creatures as Mailgirls at that time. Female new hires would begin as Level 2 Messengers. She said she could offer me a job as a Mailboy; however, since I had done exceeding well in the tests, rather than start in the mailroom, would I be interested in a Junior Clerk position in Sales Accounting.

Indeed, I would and so I became.
I started working at Atlantic Refining on Wednesday, November 25, 1959 at 8:30 AM. My hours were 8:30 Am to 5:00 PM with an hour for lunch, 37.5 hours per week. My starting salary was $56 a week, which was $2,912 a year. This was the equivalent in today’s money of $460  a week or $12.27 an hour. It was considered a very high starting salary, well above average. I also got two weeks paid vacation and seven holidays. I received medical insurance and could join a thrift plan. I joined the thrift plan, which turned out to have been a smart decision. I was also given an Atlantic Credit Card, good for gasoline and car services.

Meanwhile, Ronald Tipton had healed from his disastrous hernia operation and resultant infections. He decided to renew his attempt to enlist in the military. His original desire was to join the Navy. He wanted to see the world. He thought the Navy would take him around the globe. He went to the recruitment offices in the basement of the Coatesville Post Office building to interview with a Navy recruiter and got all his recruit paperwork to take home and complete. He went back to Coatesville to meet with the Naval recruiter to finalize things, but the recruiter was not there when he arrived, out to lunch or something. Ronald was cooling his heels waiting when the Army recruiter motioned to him. Ronald walked over and he joined the Army.

When Ronald come back from that encounter and told me this, I asked why did he join the Army when he wanted to go in the Navy. “Better uniforms,” he said.
I said, “Then why didn’t you join the Marines?”
Ronald says he doesn’t remember this, but that is the conversation we had.
He also jacked up his trying to convince me to join with him. “We can go in on what they call the Buddy System,” he told me. “We would go through all the training together.”
Well, he had insisted before if we joined we would get a private physical. He found out that wasn’t the case when the Doctors had him marching back and forth stark naked in line with other recruits the day they found his hernia.
I did go home and ask my parents, because again, they would have had to sign because of my age. My mom said there was no way her boy was going in the Army.They would not hear of me joining the armed services. Somebody might shoot at me.
Although Ronald was well and insisting I join with him, I gave it scant consideration because this time I had a job paying $56 a week, considered a top rate starting salary. Why would I give that up. I had no wishes to go someplace and have to climb some log tower.

We were heading toward a New Year that would see many changes in our lives.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Lar,
Your "memoirs" are great! You are an excellent writer and I am glad you're putting down our common history for posterity. You bring back many facts I have forgotten, for which I am appreciative. However, there are a few facts that you're not exactly right on and if you don't mind I'll correct you on those. The place I went to the recruiter was the base,int of the Coatesville Post Office, not the Coatesville YMCA. And I don't blame you for not giving up your job and going the Army with me. You had a good paying job so why give it up? I didn't have a choice because I couldn't find a job and I wanted to get rid of my service obligation, which I'm glad Idid when I did. If I hadn't I probably would have been drafted and sent to Viet Nam and who knows if I would even be here today to write this comment on your excellent blog.
I'm going to read over your postings again for my enjoyment and to see if I can find any other errors. You know me.
You lifetime friend,
Ron